Man Charged With Stealing Wi-Fi Signal

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by atari1356, Jul 7, 2005.

  1. atari1356 macrumors 68000

    atari1356

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2004
    #1
    "Benjamin Smith III, 41, faces a pretrial hearing this month following his April arrest on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/techbits_wi_fi_theft


    What do you think about this? Seems to me that it can't really be "unauthorized" if the person didn't have a password on their network. Not that I think it's totally right either... but getting arrested for it, and having to go to court seems a bit much.
     
  2. Calvinatir macrumors 6502

    Calvinatir

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    Nov 8, 2003
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    LA
    #2
    I had the impression that if the signal was on your property, without a WEP or WPA then you could legally use the signal. Man, I've been wardriving before, made a GPS map of my area..heh
     
  3. Stampyhead macrumors 68020

    Stampyhead

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    London, UK
    #3
    It's going to be interesting to see what happens with this, as there is no precedence yet for this kind of thing. If he was using the guy's internet to hack into his computer or send spam or child porn or something, then he most likely will be convicted. But if he was just using the signal to get on the internet then it could go either way. Personally I don't see anything wrong with hopping onto an unsecure wireless signal as long as you don't do anything malicious or slow down the person's internet, or anything like that. Is it stealing? I don't know. More like borrowing, in my opinion...
     
  4. ham_man macrumors 68020

    ham_man

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    #4
    I know that it isn't exactly ethical, but isn't this kinda like watching a baseball game through a hole in the outfield fence?
     
  5. Eevee macrumors 6502a

    Eevee

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    Aug 10, 2004
    Location:
    New Haven, CT
    #5
    I was suprised to read about this. Is it really illegal to hop on unsecure Wi Fi? Are there any laws saying you can't?

    If someone doesn't want others to surf on their Wi-Fi, they should secure it. But like what the news stated, most people don't know how or don't.

    I believe he'll be found innocent at the end.
     
  6. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #6
    I dunno... If someone wanted to keep their stuff, should they be forced to lock it all up or have it legally taken?
     
  7. stubeeef macrumors 68030

    stubeeef

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    #7
    It would seem to me, if they are radiating a signal on a FCC approved frequency, a public one, then I don't see the issue.
     
  8. Peterkro macrumors 68020

    Peterkro

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    Aug 17, 2004
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    Communard de Londres
    #8
    I deliberately leave my wireless open for people to use, if someone abuses it I'll temp protect it,if everyone did that wireless everywhere and a nightmare for the control freaks **IA etc.
     
  9. MacFan782040 macrumors 6502a

    MacFan782040

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    Scranton, PA
    #9
    I've logged onto so many people's WIFI connections like on vacations and when I'm out of town. What's the hurt? If they don't want people on it, put a password and secure it.

    I'll take my chances with it.
     
  10. emw macrumors G4

    emw

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    #10
    Hey, if that guy hadn't wanted me to drive off in his car, he should have locked it. :rolleyes:

    As for this particular case, the perpetrator was parked in an SUV outside of the owner's house. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to to steal wireless. Probably cost him more in gas to drive around looking for a good signal than to just subscribe to his own damn service.
     
  11. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    Jun 25, 2002
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    LaLaLand, CA
    #11
    Difference being that if someone takes something from you, you don't have it anymore. And if you just leave it lying around in the open instead of locked up on your property, you shouldn't be surprised if it is stolen. May not be right, but that's the way it is. But this is more like stealing cable, or like watching someone elses TV while they have the windows open. Maybe they should just call it piracy.
     
  12. rickvanr macrumors 68040

    rickvanr

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    Brockville
    #12
    I'm going to have to agree with an above poster; if he was using wifi from an unprotected network, I don't see a problem. On the other hand, if he cracked into it to use it then I would have a problem.
     
  13. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #13
    I guess I kind of liken it to stealing a lemon off someone's lemon tree. Sure they have plenty of lemons and probably won't miss one, but does that fact alone make it OK to take?

    I'm kind of torn on this. On the one hand I'd have no problem with drawing water off a neighbor who let his sprinklers run and run and run causing runoff into the streets. But I'm still not sure that makes it right or legal.

    How do you know you're not impinging on the persons bandwidth? If you cause them to have a single slowdown, are you stealing time from them?

    Now on the other hand, if I'm broadcasting a radio signal from my house and you pick up said signal are you stealing it? I believe it is legal to listen in on wireless phone calls with a scanner.

    I'm not taking one side or the other on this yet. At first glance I'd have to say it's illegal, but there is definetly some legal grey area to be explored.
     
  14. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #14
    This argument makes a lot of sense to me, but I don't think that's the way it works, at least in the US. At least, the "signal was on your property" argument didn't hold for catching satellite signals and descrambling them, long before DMCA made the encryption circumvention aspect illegal. And same for tapping into someone's cordless telephone, in the days when they were analog and did not use any kind of encryption.

    But then again, the article also uses the term "innocuous" to describe lifting WiFi but not committing another illegal act in the process. It's clearly illegal to lift someone's WiFi and capture their private information that way. It's clearly illegal to lift someone's WiFi and try to masquerade yourself as them to protect yourself from being caught for doing something like trafficking child porn.

    You could easily make the argument, though, even in the case where you do none of this, and the subscription owner does not pay by volume (i.e. the cost is fixed per month and is not per MB), that you are compromising their quality of service, since you are stealing their bandwidth, and they are therefore unable to access their full purchased bandwidth....

    The problem is that the practice of "innocuously" using other people's WiFi has become very widespread...lots of people who would never dream of doing something "not innocuous" do it, and many of them don't even conceptually understand that it's wrong. I know some people who do this and don't understand computing tech well enough to understand that they are using a private subscription someone else paid for -- they are just pleasantly surprised to find that their computer works on the internet when they move into a new apartment, and just assume that it's something they're allowed to use....
     
  15. katie ta achoo macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 2, 2005
    #15
    I leave mine open for the same reason.
    I know there are times I need google to answer a question, and there must be people who have the same feeling, when they're out in their car in my neighborhood.
     
  16. Xtremehkr macrumors 68000

    Xtremehkr

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    #16
    I can't say that I haven't done it. But I know that whether or not they have taken steps to protect it, it is still someone else's bandwith. Still, I wonder how much he was taking for it to have become an issue.
     
  17. rickvanr macrumors 68040

    rickvanr

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    #17

    That has to be the reason why it was an issue. He was probably using ridiculous amounts of bandwidth, killing the victim's cap and costing them large amounts of money.
     
  18. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #18
    It sounded to me like, in this case, he was a creepy guy hanging around in his truck outside their house all the time, and they wanted to get rid of him, and when the police came, they used it as the most convenient way to press charges.... But I am very curious to know that too.
     
  19. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #19
    If I am being paid to send spam, it makes a lot of sense to base my operation out of a SUV and make sure that all of the manliness pills, unbeatable investment opporunities and adventures with farm animals are traceable back to YOUR IP address, not mine. I'll move down the block when your address is blacklisted. Especially if the law enforcement agencies can subpoena the ISP's subscriber list.

    Analogy: If Bank of America has a publicly broadcast Web server address, and you are able to find a backdoor or hack your way in, it's legal, 'cause it was available and they should have had better passwords? No.
     
  20. fitinferno macrumors 6502

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    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #20
    Haha, this is why I think if they leave it unsecured then it's free game. Wardriving is fun...

    Now, cracking into if they've protected it...that should be the illegal thing. Of course us Mac users would have a hard time falling into this category with our AP cards ;)
     
  21. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #21
    FWIW, C|Net actually did a really good summary FAQ on legal precedents concerning the theft of wifi. It apparently is even more ambiguous than I thought....

    Link to C|Net

    I'll submit it to Macbytes, too. :)
     
  22. msbsound macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    #22
    Share the wealth

    I leave my home wireless network open, and being in NYC, there is the possibility for a lot of theft. Unless I notice slow down, or get a notice about illegal activity, I figure share the wealth.
     
  23. dswoodley macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    #23
    From C|Net "The primary law is the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    You can read it for yourself, but the important part (check out paragraph (a)(2)) covers anyone who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access." Nobody knows exactly what that means in terms of wireless connections. The law was written in 1986 to punish computer hacking--and nobody contemplated 802.1x wireless links back then."

    Ok, so by analogy, if I walk into a building and some doors are for "Authorized Personnel Only" but they aren't in anyway marked as such and go into one not knowing if I am "Authorized" or "Unauthorized" have I broken the rules? Maybe...but is it really my fault? Doesn't the owner of the property (or in this case the network) have an obligation to mark something that transcends surface property as "by authorization only"?
     
  24. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    Nov 1, 2001
    Location:
    VA
    #24
    It would be a bit odd if the guy kept showing up near your house in his car just to surf the net - they didn't even mention what he was doing exactly.

    I've done it plenty of times accessing a neighbors signal, but I've never driven up to someone's house...that is a little more extreme. This could set a precedent for future cases, though, so it I'm hoping he doesn't get convicted.

    D
     
  25. ebuc macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Location:
    Nor'East
    #25
    Like many others I leave my wireless unprotected. It's just the nice thing to do.

    I'd be interested to know what harms (if any) this "Wi-Fi Stealer" has caused. Without knowing that, it's hard to judge the man's innocence or guilt, though it's pretty easy to say that sitting outside someone's house in their driveway is a bit creepy.
     

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